A battle is bubbling up over a sweet fishing spot along the Riverwalk in Northfield.
Hooks have flown dangerously close to patrons on the patio of Froggy Bottoms River Pub, some argue, prompting a proposal to ban fishing on a 100-foot stretch of the public walk along the Cannon River.
The City Council looked poised to pass an ordinance that would create the no-fishing zone. But skeptical anglers protested the loss of a favorite fishing spot, questioning whether stray lures are actually a problem.
After passing a first reading of the restrictions in early August, the council last week delayed a decision, asking city staff to draw up rules that might apply to a smaller area and involve fewer hours. The council will consider the issue again in September.
“I’m more than a little conflicted by this,” said Council Member David DeLong. “Long before Froggy Bottoms was there, there was fishing there … There’s all kinds of rights that have to be balanced here.”
At a meeting earlier this month, the owner of the pub, Laurie Hoheisel, urged the council to pass the ordinance, arguing that “it’s a safety thing; it’s not a fishing thing.”
“I’ve taken lures out of our umbrellas continuously,” she said, according to video of the meeting. “I know a few people that are here that have had lures that have gone right past their face.
“If they get hooked, they’re going to come after me.”
Northfield resident Betsy Gasior told the council Tuesday that while on the patio, “I have more than once had fishing lures come very close to where we were sitting.” She worries about her child, a server at the restaurant, being hooked.
“When are we going to say, ‘enough is enough’ before someone gets hurt?” she said.
But several anglers told the council that this fishing spot is the best in Northfield and ought to be open to the public.
“Before you decide to close any area down to fishing, please consider other precautions,” such as a privacy fence or safety net, said Brian Kruse, a nearby Dundas resident who said he used to live in Northfield.
In a memo to the council, Police Chief Monte Nelson reported that over the years, some people have ignored the “no fishing” signs in the area and refused to stop casting, even after officers stepped in.
“Some fishermen have not cooperated,” Nelson wrote, “and in fact, have been rather indignant, knowing there was no enforceable law we could use to make them move.”
By phone, Nelson said his department hasn’t been able to tally how many calls have resulted from such conflicts, partly because many were resolved without a report being filed.
At last week’s meeting, some council members discussed whether the ordinance ought to apply only to seasons and hours when the restaurant’s patio is open, leaving the area open to anglers in early mornings and cooler months. They asked Nelson whether police would enforce a new rule when no diners are around.
Nelson told them that police would enforce the ordinance when they got complaints. “So if no one was complaining, we’re probably not going to be down there dealing with it,” he said.
For two decades, Monica Whitmire and her children have caught crappies and the occasional walleye at the spot near Froggy Bottoms. “It’s just a beautiful, wonderful spot to fish,” she said by phone.
Because of a high brick wall along the walk and the angle at which people cast their lines, “it’s absolutely not possible” to hit folks on the patio, said Whitmire, 45, who lives in Faribault. She is convinced that if the city bans fishing along that part of the Riverwalk, anglers will come at the “honey hole” from other directions — creating more dangerous casts.
“I would buy waders for everyone in my family,” she said, “and we would still be there.”